Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bread and Gardens

For the last of couple years, at her far-away-from-home home, my oldest daughter has been working on perfecting her artisan bread baking skills. She's taken the little things she learned here in my kitchen to a whole new level in her own.

So now that she is here with us for a couple weeks I asked her to teach me, her sister and a couple of my caterer friends how to make these old world wonders of dough.

This was no simple thing to put together since this bread is an advanced form of bread making. It requires several days of steps. Starter, dough, proofing, loafing, rising, baking. So we made a plan for three separate kitchen gatherings to make our bread.

Katie spent several days making the starter which had to be built up in stages until there was enough for she and her four students to make two to four loaves each.

The first day we got together in the afternoon in my kitchen for the dough preparation. Using a digital scale the sourdough starter was weighed followed by the bread flour, water and salt.

The dough was mixed....

...and then lightly kneaded.

This dough smelled divine.

The dough was then left to rise for the afternoon, about six hours.

We toured my gardens and then parted ways to prepare food for a shared evening meal on my patio. (Pictures of our meal will follow in a future post)

After a spectacular dinner we gathered again in my kitchen to loaf the dough.

This time we had some observers.

Some of the dough was made into plain loaves.

Some loaves were made extra special by the addition of rosemary, onions, olives, peppers or cheese.
The thirteen loaves were then put into the refrigerator overnight for a slow rising that would develop the complex sourdough flavors.

The next morning we gathered at my friend's home. With her catering kitchen she has three ovens. While baking stones heated on the oven racks, Katie demonstrated how to slash the dough with a razor so that the dough would "bloom" into lovely designs in the oven.

The loaves were then scooted onto the hot stones with a peel....

...sprayed generously with water and then covered with a hot roasting pan or cloche for the first part of the baking.

Despite having three ovens, we could only bake four loaves at a time. While we waited for the bread to bake we toured the gardens.

These long-horned ladies enjoyed the view also.

Between spending two days in a boulangerie and seeing this profusion of poppies I think I started to believe that I actually was in Provence.

This slashing, spraying, baking and garden touring continued all morning until all thirteen loaves were baked to crispy, crusty, golden goodness.

We stopped for a light snack at mid-morning.

With these ladies, even a snack is divine eating.

Rhubarb tart (leftover from the previous evening meal), melon, olives...

...and just a little prosciutto wrapped asparagus with a sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano.

I'm telling you- instant teleportation to France, without the jet lag.

(I hear you moaning. You want some. Yeah, it was divine.)

And... sans doute!...we had to eat the warm crusty bread too.

Feeling that all was right with the world, we toured one last garden.

Saving the best for last...

So much bread, so little time and only three meals a day.


  1. What a fun couple of days! And tasty! That is some wonderful looking bread, I must learn how to make it. Library time...

  2. I love sourdough made from starter. Used to make it all the time. I'll have to look into the process to make the artisan breads. Good job, Mama, teaching your daughter the basics. Look where it took her!


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